MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The two men rose from their seats in Section 114 of FedExForum after Connecticut scored another easy transition bucket. They grabbed their coats and started walking up the steps, toward the doors. And never mind that there was still plenty of time left on the clock. Because these men already knew how the game would end.
Same way every other Memphis game against a quality opponent has ended.
With a breakdown.
Or a bad possession.
Or, in this case, a complete collapse.
So an arena that was half-empty at halftime was mostly empty in the final minutes Thursday, and Memphis lost for the fourth time in five games, and for the second time to UConn.
Final score: UConn 77, Memphis 57.
And would you believe the Tigers actually led at the half?
Memphis was up 37-36 after 20 minutes. But UConn outscored the Tigers 41-20 in the final 20, which dropped Memphis to 0-6 against top-60 RPI teams this season even though Memphis led in the second half of five of those six games, including an early game against the Oklahoma team that’s now ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press poll.
Speaking of the AP poll, Josh Pastner is now 5-25 all-time against AP Top 25 teams.
And these are the kinds of numbers — combined with a 13-9 record and recruiting class that’s ranked outside of the top 50 — that are starting to stack up and put Pastner’s job security in serious question. The lead sports columnist for the Commercial Appeal, Geoff Calkins, called for a coaching change (effective after this season) following last month’s home loss to East Carolina, all of which has fans publicly debating whether the school could actually afford Pastner’s $10.6 million buyout.
Yes, his buyout is $10.6 million.
That’s a lot of money for a school operating outside of a Power 5 league.
“We can’t point fingers,” Pastner said. “We have to find a way to snap out of it.”